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After a recent study increased the estimate of annual deaths from antibiotic resistant infections in the United States to as high as 160,000, Senator David Koehler (D, Peoria) introduced the Keep Antibiotics Safe Act (SB1186) to ban the routine use of antibiotics in food production.
From curing strep throat to facilitating complex surgeries like organ transplants, antibiotics are the foundation of modern medicine, yet their effectiveness is being eroded by the overuse of antibiotics, which breeds antibiotic-resistant infections known as “superbugs.” One major misuse of antibiotics takes place on factory farms, where antibiotics are routinely administered to animals who are not even sick. Two-thirds of antibiotics in the US are sold for meat and poultry production.
“These drug-resistant strains of viruses we see popping up everywhere should cause great alarm and one thing causing them is the overuse of antibiotics in livestock,” Koehler said. “This legislation seeks to address that problem and make sure we aren’t accidentally creating superbugs.”
The Keep Antibiotics Safe Act would end the routine use of antibiotics in food production, allowing the use of antibiotics on animals raised for meat only when prescribed by a veterinarian for a specific purpose for a limited amount of time. The legislation would also require an annual reporting program to monitor and enforce compliance.
Scientists have recognized a link between farm use of antibiotics and the dangers posed to human health since the 1970’s, but the federal government has yet to take meaningful action to address it.
“Antibiotic resistance is a dire threat to public health,” said Dr. Sameer Patel, Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. “Responsible antibiotic use in human medicine and on farms is necessary to tackle this crisis.”
Similar legislation has already passed with bipartisan support in California and Maryland. Major fast food chains like Chicago-based McDonalds have announced changes to their supply chain to limit or eliminate meat raised with routine antibiotics.
Illinois has a rich history in the development of antibiotics. The USDA “Ag Lab” in Peoria was instrumental in discovering the first strain of penicillin that could be mass produced during World War II.
“Illinois was critical to the development of the modern medical miracle of Antibiotics,” said Illinois PIRG Director, Abe Scarr. “Now we can be critical in preserving their effectiveness for future generations, by passing the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act.”
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